School of Society and Culture

MA International Relations: Global Security and Development

Discover how and why underlying issues such as poverty, environmental degradation, societal inequities and politics create the international framework in which security conflicts emerge. Gain a sophisticated understanding of the dynamics that drive global politics, and the ability to use this knowledge in fields as diverse as diplomacy, journalism, finance, industry, public relations and risk analysis.

Careers with this subject

Career destinations include the UK Civil Service/Department of International Development; non-governmental organisations such as Social Development Direct, Refugee Services and Latitude Global Volunteering, the armed forces and other public-sector and private sector employers.

Key features

  • Gain a understanding of such topical issues as global politics, the rise of religious fundamentalism, human rights, world trade, poverty and climate change. 
  • Take the opportunity to study the politics of several world regions – Africa, the Middle East, Europe and Asia – and critically debate their different perspectives.
  • Attain invaluable research skills – by studying this programme you will be able to conduct and present an extended piece of research.
  • Tailor your masters to match your career aspirations by choosing the subjects that most interest you from a range of elective modules.
  • Become part of a lively research community with the opportunity for interdisciplinary discussion and collaboration. Several of our students have gone on to work as research assistants.

Course details

  • Programme overview

  • You'll look at both the theory and practice of international relations in terms of the threats to, and vulnerabilities of, global security and development. Three compulsory modules will give you a basis for understanding global security, global governance and how to conduct advanced research. You'll then choose three specialised modules, giving you the opportunity to shape your degree to suit your interests. The certificate and diploma are available for those only completing part of the progression route. For the masters degree, you’ll complete a final dissertation on a specific aspect of the current security and/or development problems confronting policymakers in world politics. You’ll undertake a research and methodology module to support your masters research and equip you for your career. Learn through lectures, seminars and, in some cases, simulation exercises. Assessment of modules will be by a mixture of essays, seminar presentations, report writing, exams, and the dissertation.

    Core modules

    • MA Dissertation in Global Security and Development (IRL700)

      This module provides MA students with the opportunity to demonstrate their research skills. It requires the design and production of a substantial dissertation in the field of Global Security and Development in which the aims and objectives of the dissertation and an evaluation of the methodology are specified.

    • Research, Professional Skills & Methodology (IRL712)

      This module is designed to support and develop practical research and professional skills for postgraduate international relations and geopolitics students. The focus of the module is twofold – practical issues in research and professional practice as well as methodological analysis, grounded on a strong understanding of the fundamental, underlying ontological and epistemological issues that shape the methodolocial and research design choices we face when conducting research.

    • Strategy and Security Studies (IRL713)

      This module considers how national policymakers devise strategy to cope with the security challenges of the 21st Century. The broadening of the security agenda has brought a large number of issues and actors under the purview of security practitioners. As a result, it has become less clear where the boundaries of responsibility lie and how security problems should be prioritised. The module examines theories and developments in strategy and security to identify the most important risks and threats.

    Optional modules

    • International Trade Policy and Politics (IRL714)

      This module covers the primary institutions involved in regulating trade at the international and regional levels. It will focus on the World Trade Organization, the European Union, regional institutions in the developing world as well as major states such as the US and China. It explains the major contemporary policy issues; including trade disputes, trade wars, ‘behind the border’ issues, the trade-development link and trade in services. It then analyses the political, geopolitical and geoeconomic forces driving trade relationships in the contemporary world. As such it will offer a strong empirical and theoretical foundation for understanding trade politics in the 21st century.

    • Sub-Saharan Africa in the Global Political Economy (IRL715)

      This module explores Africa’s location in the global political economy, examining various historical, economic and socio-political developments over the past fifty years. It offers an overview of the history of the region, as well as the major contemporary political-economic and social developments and the challenges these pose. The module also seeks to provide the tools to analyse and understand what is going on in Africa today.

    • International Relations in the Middle East: A Critical Approach (IRL716)

      This module introduces the students to the study of International Relations in the Middle East. It does this by examining processes such as uprisings and revolutions, and concepts such as democracy and authoritarianism. The module’s approach encourages students to think about the relationship between domestic and international politics and the importance of historical context. Crucially, these concepts, processes, and approaches are valid in 21st century politics beyond the Middle East.

    • International Relations in Practice (IRL717)

      This module offers students the opportunity to integrate work or fieldwork experience into their programme of postgraduate IR study.

    • America and the United Nations 1945 to the present (MAHI716)

      This module provides a detailed examination of the relationship between the United States of America and the United Nations in the management of international relations from 1945 to the present.

Every postgraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the programme aims, the programme structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

The following programme specification represents the latest programme structure and may be subject to change:

MA International Relations Global Security Development Prog Spec Sep22 FINAL 2557

The modules shown for this course or programme are those being studied by current students, or expected new modules. Modules are subject to change depending on year of entry.

Entry requirements

You should have a second-class honours degree or equivalent, or an equivalent professional qualification. Other qualifications accompanied by substantial experience in an appropriate field may also be considered. Non-standard applications will be considered on a case by case basis.
Please view the country specific pages for further information regarding the equivalency of your degree. International applicants will be required to provide evidence of their English language ability, for example by achieving an IELTS score of 6.5 overall (with a minimum of 5.5 in each element) or equivalent. Full English language requirements. Pre-sessional English language courses are available if you do not meet these requirements.
We welcome applicants with international qualifications. To view other accepted qualifications please refer to our tariff glossary. 

Fees, costs and funding

Student 2023-2024 2024-2025
Home £9,250 £9,700
International £16,500 £17,600
Part time (Home) £510 £540
Full time fees shown are per annum. Part time fees shown are per 10 credits. Please note that fees are reviewed on an annual basis. Fees and the conditions that apply to them shown in the prospectus are correct at the time of going to print. Fees shown on the web are the most up to date but are still subject to change in exceptional circumstances. More information about fees and funding.

Postgraduate scholarships for international students

We offer several scholarships for international students who wish to study postgraduate taught (PGT) degree programmes.

How to apply

When to apply
Most of our taught programmes begin in September. Applications can usually be made throughout the year, and are considered until programmes are full.
Before you apply
Familiarise yourself with the information required to complete your application form. You will usually be required to supply:
  • evidence of qualifications (degree certificates or transcripts), with translations if not in English, to show that you meet, or expect to meet the entry requirements
  • evidence of English language proficiency, if English is not your first language
  • a personal statement of approximately 250-400 words about the reasons for your interest in the course and outlining the nature of previous and current related experience. You can write this into the online application form, or include it as a separate document
  • your curriculum vitae or résumé, including details of relevant professional/voluntary experience, professional registration/s and visa status for overseas workers
  • proof of sponsorship, if applicable.
If you require further information take a look at our application guidance. 
Disability Inclusion Services
If you have an impairment, health condition or disability, learn about the additional support the University provides.
International students
Support is also available to overseas students applying to the University from our International Office. Take a look at our how to apply information or email
Submitting an application
Once you are happy that you have all of the information required you can apply using our online postgraduate application form (the blue 'Apply now' icon on this page). 
What happens after I apply?
You will normally receive a decision on your application within four weeksof us receiving your application. You may be asked to provide additional information; two academic/professional references, confirming your suitability for the course; or to take part in an interview (which in the case of overseas students may be by telephone or video conference) and you will be sent a decision by letter or email.
We aim to make the application procedure as simple and efficient as possible. Our Admissions and Course Enquiries team is on hand to offer help and can put you in touch with the appropriate faculty if you wish to discuss any programme in detail. 
If you would like any further information please contact the Admissions and Course Enquiries team:
Telephone: +44 (0)1752 585858
Admissions policy
More information and advice for applicants can be referenced in our admissions policy which can be found on the student regulations, policies and procedures page. Prospective students are advised to read the policy before making an application to the University.

Introduction to the programme

In this short video Dr Patrick Holden, Programme Lead, provides a personal introduction to the MA International Relations: Global Security and Development programme.
Patrick introduces some of the key members of the high quality academic team who help deliver the programme, provides an overview of the academic structure and content, including some of the exciting projects our students have undertaken, before talking about the diverse and interesting career paths our graduates have progressed on to and the University and city of Plymouth.
Polychronis Kapalidis

Polychronis Kapalidis – MA International Relations graduate

"Plymouth is a great place to study, both at an undergraduate and postgraduate level… Not only are the facilities modern, but the staff, both academic and administrative, are always there to assist you and to provide guidance and support."

Julie Voo, MA International Relations graduate

My time at Plymouth was invaluable due to the supportive staff, their diverse areas of research, and the vibrant and enriching extra-curricular activities, such as the University Politics and International Affairs Society. 
Julie is currently Head of Business Environment Strategy at Department for International Trade (DIT), British Embassy Beijing.
Beijing skyline

Topical issues in contemporary global politics

Shelterbox supplying aid to disaster struck areas
Reflecting his research expertise, Dr Patrick Holden provides an insight in one of the University of Plymouth Brexit Papers – The potential impact of Brexit on UK International Development policies
Get involved in a regular series of seminars attended by students, academics and members of the public focused on global politics – Plymouth International Studies Centre Seminar Series

US-Iran relations

Lecturer in International Relations, Dr Chris Emery was invited to be part of a national BBC News 24 interview in January 2018, to offer his insight on current US-Iran relations.

Air strikes in Syria

Lecturer in International Relations, Dr Lorenzo Cladi discussed the consequences of air strikes in Syria during a BBC Radio Cornwall interview in April 2018.


Finance illustration